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now that the last unstaked earth we can claim
is the triangle wedged beneath fore and hind wheels
I burn with hunger for cremation knowing you will feed my embers
to the chassis at night and gather me close in the oil-choked morning
and not be imprisoned for littering and I will do the same for you.

now that the latrine lines uncoil for kilometers you could die
of dehydration waiting to piss we thank all the gods we’re not healthy enough
to shit—laying waste to the earth being a capital offense second only
to murder because bodies can be repurposed I’d sooner be arrested interring stillborns
than voiding myself the black market escort bio that felled you in lust your parents were jailers
in the latrine lines you lecture me often on the penance of middle-class digestive systems.

now that I’ve turned enough tricks to vacate my mother’s trishaw
and bordello my own we park side by side to make love horizontally
like couples on the holoscreens from Golden Age Bollywood and your trishaw
sits higher on reinforced tires and each monoxide morning bruises bleach
your vertebrae and it’s not a wedding brand but I’ll take what I can get.

now that the mainlanders have discovered I can paint you drive them
to me and we dogfight in Sanskrit over your commission while I unroll smuggled skin
onto the windscreen and craft the scene in recycled blood and stale diesel—
the beetling hive of metal cocooned humans how they swoon these tourist fools
how you simper and kowtow and promise violence if I cheat you out of your cut
because I cheat you often knowing you’re stockpiling fuel to drive the oversea bridge
where my father died trying died flaming to know how it would feel to live inside a square.

now that you’ve been to the white van clinic there’s no punishable risk in parking together
so nightly we wander the rust-dark aisles minefield on minefield of holoshields like koi bowls
in old cartoons or paper lanterns or pregnant moons the fistfights the sex the mundanities still left
to us you lick hydrocarbons from my shaved neck my daredevil beloved
I swear then and there to save your spot in the latrine line tomorrow morning.

Lalini Shanela Ranaraja is a multigenre creative from Kandy, Sri Lanka, currently inhabiting a liminal Midwestern locale known as the Quad Cities. She has written about defiant women, mothertongues, and luminous worlds for Entropy, Off Assignment, Sky Island Journal, Uncanny Magazine, and others. Find her at
Current Issue
18 Sep 2023

Ama’s arm rested protectively around the girl’s shoulder as the giant bird glided above, its head angling right to left. Violet-black wings soared across a cloudless sky, blocking the sun’s midday rays and swathing sections of the village in deep shadow. Given its size, this argentavis was one of her first, but too far above for her to differentiate by name. Even across the distance, Ama could feel its heartbeat synced to hers, their lives intertwined until death.
She is leaving the world that is pink with desire, on her gray cardboard rocket ship.
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